Questions That Needed Answering
After a high-powered opening premier league fixture, a five-nil win for Manchester City versus Liverpool, there were a lot of questions for the rest of the EPL’s “big teams” to answer. How would they respond? Would there be any more game-changing red cards this weekend?
And for Chelsea, were they really back to being last season’s all-conquering side, or were Everton just tired from the Europa league? How would Chelsea line up at the King Power, with a big game in the Champions League on Tuesday? Would Eden Hazard finally return from injury? Would Danny Drinkwater start against his old side?
And everybody loves the internationals but… OK no that’s not true. If you support a club that has lots of players out with their national teams, the international break is a testing couple of weeks. Your players could come back injured or jet-lagged, or even a little mixed up from playing a different system. If your team were doing well beforehand, they could easily lose momentum after the international break. So did Chelsea have an international hang-over?
Antonio Conte’s side were in a nominal 3-4-3 formation today, but looking at the team sheet, you knew it would execute more like a 3-5-2. Tiemoue Bakayoko started in central midfield, and Cesc Fabregas moved out to the (false?) right forward position. Gary Cahill completed his suspension this game, so Antonio Rudiger continued in his left center back role. Pedro came in for Willian at left forward.
Leicester City had endured a difficult start to the season, with only one win and three points from three games. There were mitigating circumstances though; both their losses had come away against Manchester United and Arsenal. Vicente Iborra and Robert Huth remained out injured for the Foxes, but Kelechi Iheanacho was on the bench for this game.
Line-Ups & Ratings
Schmeichel 5, Fuchs 6, Morgan 7, Maguire 6, Simpson 5, Ndidi 6, James 6 (Iheanacho 5), Albrighton 5 (King 5), Mahrez 5, Slimani 5 (Gray 6), Vardy 7
Subs Hamer, Gray, Chilwell, Amartey, King, Iheanacho, Ulloa
Courtois 6, Alonso 6, Azpilicueta 7, Luiz 7, Rudiger 7, Moses 6 (Zappacosta 6), Kante 8, Bakayoko 7, Fabregas 7 (Hazard 5), Pedro 6 (Willian 6), Morata 7
Subs Caballero, Christensen, Zappacosta, Drinkwater, Willian, Hazard, Batshuayi
Chelsea started this game pretty brightly, continuing the rhythm they had established in the Everton game. Alvaro Morata had a good shot well saved by Kasper Schmeichel early on, and Marcos Alonso was unfortunate that his cross from the byline was cut out for a corner. Cesc Fabregas put a delightful ball in over the top for Morata, but he could not make contact for the finish. Wes Morgan also made a block to deny Morata on another attempt.
For their part, Leicester made a couple of good counter-attacking opportunities for themselves in the first half. In one of those, Jamie Vardy rushed his shot and it went harmlessly wide. The second was an even better chance, with Leicester stealing possession off N’golo Kante on a Chelsea corner. Riyad Mahrez set up Islam Slimani for the finish at the other end, but somehow Courtois saved to prevent a certain goal.
Things You Can Count On
In spite of the chances created by both sides, it looked like they might be going into halftime goalless. But there are some things you can count on this season. You can count on Cesar Azpilicueta to make picture-perfect crosses into the box. And when that happens, you can usually count on Alvaro Morata to lose his defender and head Azpilicueta’s cross in the back of the net. And that’s how Chelsea scored their first goal of the game on 41 minutes.
It’s happened enough times now, they’ve probably been perfecting this particular combo in training. In fact, it’s at the point that opposition teams need to close Azpilicueta down as soon as he makes his way up the right wing. Wes Morgan should maybe have gotten to the cross, but you had to feel for him a little. He really didn’t have much chance of keeping track of Morata the whole ninety minutes. The kid is slippery as an eel.
Sun Must Have Got In Schmeichel’s Eyes
Just five minutes after the restart, Chelsea struck again. This goal came out of nothing really. Rudiger passed the ball to N’golo Kante, who found himself in lots of space thirty yards out from goal. Everyone expected him to pass to someone else, but he advanced, then struck a speculative, bobbling shot from distance, that somehow evaded Leicester’s defenders and even Kasper Schmeichel, who was just a split-second late with his dive. Kante did not celebrate his goal though, out of respect for the team with which he’d won his first premier league title.
Chelsea were two nil up now, and Leicester could barely get a hold of the ball, much less score. It looked like it was going to be an easy away win – up until the 61st minute. Cesar Azpilicueta, under pressure from Demarai Gray in his penalty area, made a hurried back-pass to Thibaut Courtois. Jamie Vardy rushed in and just managed to get to the ball ahead of Courtois, before tripping over his outstretched leg for a penalty. Vardy took the penalty himself, and smashed it down the center of goal. Courtois got a hand to the ball, but could not keep it out. It was 2 – 1, and the game had a very different complexion now.
Late in the second half Morata had another free header off a cross, this time from the left wing, but Harry Maguire stopped the ball going in with his arm. It was shocking that neither the referee nor his assistant gave the penalty, especially as the Leicester center back had his arm fully stretched out at shoulder height before the cross even reached Morata. If Leicester had scored an equalizer afterwards, it would have been even harder to take.
Things To Work On
In the last ten minutes, although Chelsea were only one goal up with not much left to play, they started to show uncharacteristically poor game management. Alonso, Hazard and Kante were all guilty of giving away possession, when they could have held on to the ball and run the clock down. In one such instance, Bakayoko made a vital interception to stop a cross that could have led to a Leicester equalizer. To that point, he had been pretty solid in his defensive play, but in possession, showed a tendency to make heavy or misplaced passes. That one block made everything right though.
At the end, Leicester lacked the quality to capitalize on their chances, and Chelsea somehow held on for a narrow away win. And with Jose Mourinho’s Man U drawing 2 – 2 away at Stoke, Chelsea moved up to third place on nine points, just one point behind both United and Manchester City.
Final Score Leicester 1 – 2 Chelsea
Thumbnail image courtesy of: ESPN FC
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